Sunday, March 25, 2018

A "New" Face of the 48th: William Wainwright Potts, Captain, Company D

Sometimes many months will pass, sometimes even a year or more, before I happen upon, discover, stumble over, locate, or be sent or directed to a "new" image of a 48th Pennsylvania soldier--or at least one I have never seen before--but lately, well, a number have been revealed; indeed, a relatively good number over the past year or so. Some have been identified, such as Lt. Michael Kistler,  Private James Dempsey, and Private Henry Jenkins. Others, unidentified. It is always a great thrill for me, having studied this regiment for so long--having pored over the rosters and muster rolls so many, many times--to see a "new" face from the regiment, to go along with name. As I have written many times before, this is not a very common thing, or at least not as common as one may suppose or assume. Indeed, after more than twenty years of actively seeking images of 48th Pennsylvania soldiers, I have located approximately 200. That's 200 out of the 1,860 men who served in the unit, or just 11%. Well, just a few days ago, Mr. Bill Clark very kindly shared with me via this blog his ancestral/family genealogy page, which includes biographical data and even an image of his 48th PA ancestor, Captain W.W. Potts, of Company D. 

Captain William W. Potts
Company D, 48th PA 
[Courtesy of Mr. Bill Clark] 

William Wainwright Potts was born on June 10, 1831, in Columbus, Burlington County, New Jersey, the second child and first son born to Aaron and Rebecca Potts. Sometime when William, presumably, was still young, the family relocated to Schuylkill County, settling in Pottsville, where Aaron and Rebecca would continue to raise their family, which will grow to include three more children, two girls and another boy, Charles Potts, who, like his older brother William would serve in the Civil War.

On May 5, 1853, William Wainwright Potts, not quite twenty-two years of age, married Mary Jane Welch who, over the next 18 years would deliver eight children, though, sadly, four of them would not survive infancy or childhood. Mary Jane passed away at the young age of 37 in the spring of 1871, perhaps from complications from childbirth. Her remains were laid to rest in Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery. 

Although his occupation is recorded as a 'moulder,' or mold maker, in the regimental records of the 48th, his obituary noted that he was a well-known hotel keeper in the city, and an 1857 article in the Mining Record and Pottsville Emporium recorded a rather interesting tid-bit or anecdote relating to William Potts. Potts, as the article stated, was the proprietor of the White Horse Restaurant. Apparently in June of that year quite a remarkable thing happened--worthy of headlines in the local paper. "On last Wednesday evening about 10 minutes after 10 o'clock," the article recorded, "Mr. William Potts, proprietor of the White Horse Restaurant, opened an immense Absecum salt Oyster, containing forty-seven pearls, varying in size from a pin's head to a very large pea--also a miniature goose of gold, on which was inscribed, 'Buy your clothing at the store of Mr. David A. Smith, on Centre Street, Pottsville, Pa." 

With the outbreak of civil war in 1861, thirty-year-old William W. Potts offered his services and that summer was mustered in as 1st Lieutenant, Company D, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. He stood rather tall, at 5'11" in height, had a "light" complexion, and dark eyes. Upon Daniel Nagle's elevation from captain of Company D to regimental major in November 1861, Potts was promoted to captain and served in that capacity until his discharge in January 1863. Potts was discharged due to a disability and it would seem he was not with the company for the final few months of 1862, since Lt. Curtis Pollock of Company G, would temporarily command Company D at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Potts was likely in poor health. 

Charles Potts, William's younger brother, served as a lieutenant in the nine-month 151st Pennsylvania Infantry--the "school teacher's regiment." On July 1, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, during whitch the 151st suffered tremendously high casualties, Lt. Potts was captured. He spent the next fourteen months in captivity but survived the ordeal and returned home.  

Lieutenant Charles Potts, 151st Pennsylvania
[Courtesy of Mr. Bill Clark] 

After William's discharge from the 48th in January 1863, he returned to Pottsville. In 1873, two years after the death of Mary Jane, he remarried.  His second wife, Eliza Noble, gave birth to six more children, three of whom would die in childhood. Thus, of William Potts's fourteen children, seven would not live to maturity. With this and with the death of Mary Jane, tragedy certainly seemed to have shadowed William Wainwright Potts. 

William remained active in the community and in veteran's affairs, taking a leading role with the Grand Army of the Republic. He would die rather young, due to complications from diabetes, passing away at age 62 in January 1894. His remains were interred in Pottsville's Charles Baber Cemetery. 

My thanks go out to Mr. Bill Clark for so generously sharing your family ancestry with me, and for giving me the opportunity to see yet another face of the 48th. 

Full-Size Image of Captain Potts
[Courtesy of Mr. Bill Clark] 

William Pott's Grave
Charles Baber Cemetery, Pottsville, PA 


Bill Clark said...

I am pleased to help your nice blog about history pf PA 48th.. Potts is an ancestor of my wife's, through Potts' daughter Emma Rebecca Potts. I have been researching a CW vet who was my grandmother's grandfater - Col. Charles Ross Smith, who served with the 6th PA Cavalry ...

I have been able to find some nice images, as he served with Stoneman, Pleasanton, and Sheridan.

Somewhere I have some letters from Charles Potts - I would be happy to send them along..

Bill Clark

Unknown said...

Bill Clark,

Emma Rebecca Potts Jones is my husband's great grandmother. I believe we have Capt. William W. Potts civil war sword. We also have an oil portrait of Emma Rebecca Potts.
Lee Yost
Feb. 3, 2019

Bill Clark said...

Lee Yost -- I saw your post about the oil painting, and the sword ! Is there any way you cld sent pictures ? Please send pics to

Jan Clark Miller said...

It was such a thrill to see a familiar face on this blog. I can't thank you enough for posting this information about my 1st Great Grandfather, Capt. William Wainwright Potts. My name is Jan Clark Miller and have had that same picture of him displayed in my home since my mother passed twelve years ago. My line runs through his son by Eliza Wynn Noble, Samuel Noble Potts b. 1881, then his daughter, my mother Jean Elizabeth Potts Clark. Thank you for remembering our fabulous history and heroes of the past.